Racing this Week: post-Tour crits, harder Clásica, women’s World Cup

No rest for the weary, especially when there’s money to be made. The peloton is barely catching its breath following the Tour de France before clicking back into gear with more racing this weekend.

No rest for the weary, especially when there’s money to be made. The peloton is barely catching its breath following the Tour de France before clicking back into gear with more racing this weekend.

Though not officially part of the UCI calendar, the lucrative post-Tour criteriums will keep the stars busy for the next few weeks. Big names can earn tens of thousands of Euros racing in the short, fan-friendly circuits, usually held across northern Europe.

The criteriums are often pre-arranged with a winner decided before the show begins. The point of these events is to show off the big names, give the fans a chance to get closer to the Tour stars and have some fun along the way.

On Tuesday, Fabian Cancellara won the Criterium de Aalst in Belgium ahead of Alessandro Petacchi and Carlos Barredo. At the Criterium de Boxmeer in Holland, Lars Boom won in front of Niki Terpstra and Andy Schleck.

Some “real” racing is winding down this week with the Region of the Wallonne (2.HC) stage race in Belgium. Laurent Mangel (Vacansoleil) won a bunch sprint in Tuesday’s stage and holds the race lead going into Wednesday’s final stage.

Open de Suède Vargarda (CDM)

Friday, July 30 – Sweden

The women’s World Cup clicks back into gear with the seventh in the eight-round series with a unique, team time trial event. All the top teams will be gunning for bragging rights. Racing continues Sunday with a road race.


31st Clásica Ciclista de San Sebastián (PT)

Saturday, July 31, Spain

Spain’s most important one-day race will be more difficult this year for its 30th edition.

Race organizers have toughened up the profile dramatically, adding a second passage over the emblematic climb up the Jaizkibel, the decisive, first-category ridge that towers above the Bay of Biscayne like a shark’s fin.

Not only will the race feature two climbs up the Jaizkibel, but the route will also tackle the short but steep Arkale climb twice.

Laurent Jalabert launches a winning attack on the Jaizkibel in 2001. | Graham Watson photo

Although the Jaizkibel typically would break up the bunch, the climb was nearly 30km from the finish line, allowing riders to regroup for a relatively large bunch coming down the finishing straight into posh San Sebastián.

Organizers already added over the past few years to make the race more selective, including the addition of the Arkale climb last year that saw Carlos Barredo fend off Roman Kreuziger in an exciting duel.

Under the new route, the course will double back and tackle Jaizkibel a second time and hit the Arkale climb a second time, meaning the pack will tackle the Jaizkibel and the Arkale climbs twice each in the final 80km.

The distance will be 234km, just about its traditional finishing distance as earlier portions of the route will be modified to accommodate the route changes.

The race will feature 18 ProTour teams, along with Cervélo, Andalucia-CajaSur and Xacobeo-Galicia.

There’s a top-notch field, with Alberto Contador (Astana), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) all slated to start. Once they finish their criteriums, that is.


67th Tour of Poland (PT)

August 1-7

Slotted into a new date, the weeklong Tour of Poland should see better weather than when it was held in September. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Transitions) and Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia) are both expected to start, as well as Ben Swift (Team Sky).


65th Circuito de Getxo (1.1)

Sunday, August 1 – Spain

Held near Bilbao, the race is the complement to the Clásica held down the road in San Sebastián along Spain’s Basque Country. The route is held on a 16.85km circuit and typically ends in a small bunch sprint. Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won for the “home team” last year.


31st La Poly Normande (1.1)

Sunday, August 1 – France

Held in the low hills of Normandy in northern France, the race almost always delivers a French winner. Philippe Gilbert was the last non-French winner in the past decade when he won in 2005, riding for a French team, of course. The route tackles the Cote de la Vallée in 10 laps on a circuit.


64th Trofeo Matteotti (1.1)

Sunday, August 1 – Italy

The one-day race is back after a hiatus in 2009. Paolo Bettini was the winner in 2008. Held in Pescara, the circuit course almost always delivers a winner out of a small group.


5th Open de Suède Vargada (CDM)

Sunday, August 1 – Sweden

The women’s World Cup returns this weekend with a stop in Sweden. Last year’s winner Marianne Vos is also the current World Cup series leader. All the top women’s team will be lining up for the eighth in the nine-round World Cup series.